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Question over pool funding source to go on 2024 ballot

The proposed replacement for Boulder City’s aging public pool has gotten expensive.

This week, the city council took up a request from staff to put a ballot question in front of voters that would allow the city to tap unused money in the Capital Improvement Fund to fill an estimated $4 million gap in the budget for that project.

Reading from a staff report, City Manager Taylour Tedder said, “In 2021, voters approved using $7 million from the Capital Improvement Fund for a swimming pool recreational project, as funds become available from the proceeds of the sale and lease of city lands. In addition, voters approved 90% of the proceeds from the sale of Tract 350 be used to fund a swimming pool recreational project. The sale of Tract 350 is estimated to generate $18,995,400 toward the funding of the swimming pool. In addition to voter-approved funds, $1,400,000 has been donated to the city for purposes of funding the construction of a new pool.”

The report says that a total of $31,319,407 is committed toward the construction of a new pool and they estimate that an additional $10 million is needed for construction. There is a caveat there. As Tedder said, the budget is only accurate, “barring increased costs by the time construction commences.”

It is a crucial caveat. Earlier in the day the council got this report, reported national inflation numbers came out somewhat higher than expected and the stock market receded more than 500 points. While the pace of inflation has slowed since its highs in 2022, it is still wreaking havoc with budgets both personal and municipal.

The pool project has long been discussed and, even at the original price of more than $27 million, some community members questioned if a town Boulder City’s size and population really needed the kind of facility envisioned.

Back on Aug. 8 of last year, the council heard a presentation from SCA Design, the firm contracted to design the new pool complex, and got the tough news that the estimated cost had gone up. By a lot. It had gone up by 36% for a new total of $36.7 million.

That leaves a shortfall of more than $6 million between what has been already set aside and the total. Staff says they believe that they can fill a $6 million gap via reallocating other city funds as well as “budget augmentation.”

But, the price is sure, like everything else, to go up even further and so staff have said they believe there is, in total, more like a $10 million gap to fill in.

Their suggestion to the council is to take that from the Capital Improvement Fund (CIF). That fund takes in an additional $3 million each year, mostly from land leases and has a current uncommitted balance of $12 million.

“No other funding sources are feasible to fill this gap in project funding,” Tedder said, referring to the CIF. “This is money we already have on hand.”

After a short discussion about the cost to the city of putting a proposal on the ballot (it’s about $25,000 per question, according to City Clerk Tami McKay), Mayor Joe Hardy summed things up in just a few words. “So,” he asked, looking at his fellow council members, “Do we want a pool?”

Councilmember Sherri Jorgensen picked up the inflation theme.

“Clearly,” she said, “Inflation has not been our friend over the past couple of years. It has not been anyone’s friend. If we continue to push this back, I don’t know how much more unfriendly it could become, but I can only imagine.”

And that was the totality of the discussion. Councilmember Cokie Booth moved to direct staff to draft a ballot question. Councilmember Matt Fox seconded the motion and the vote was unanimous.

According to a timeline included in the meeting agenda packet, the wording of the ballot question and an explanation from the city will be brought back for council approval in their meeting scheduled for Feb. 27. Tedder said that if the ballot question is approved, the city would be able to start the design process right away and could potentially begin construction in mid-to-late 2025.

NOTE: The print version of this story referred to a change in the city charter. While the charter was referenced in both the Overview and Background Information sections of the agenda item as presented to council, after publication city staff clarified that the mention was only intended to lay out all options before councilmembers. According to staff, no charter amendment is needed and none is actually being requested. The request from staff was to consider a ballot question that would not require changing the city’s charter.

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